AUGUSTA, Maine — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced nearly $560,000 in the Fiscal Year 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funding to Maine. This USDA grant will help the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) fund projects ranging from managing soilborne diseases in potato production through integrated soil improvement to drought stress management for wild blueberry growers.
“These grants focus on supply, demand, infrastructure, and advancing research that will allow farmers to enhance markets, adjust production practices and increase climate resiliency,” said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. “Making investments like this that enhance Maine’s food system is essential to ensuring access to more markets and supporting the Governor’s Climate Action Plan to increase local food production from 10% to 30% by 2030.”
“The funded programs will be invaluable to increasing the successes of our farmers and food producers and broadening the market for specialty crops here in Maine and across the U.S.,” said Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources Director Nancy McBrady. “The SCBGP supports local and regional needs of farmers and producers to help them become more competitive now and in the future.”
SCBGP funding will allow Maine researchers and producers to advance vital knowledge to enhance markets, adjust production practices and increase climate resiliency, with particular emphasis on two of Maine’s iconic crops, the wild blueberry and potato.
Specific Maine projects include:
- Blue Barn, LLC: The Millennial Opportunity: Expanding Supply, Demand, and Infrastructure for a New Era of Maine Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine. $100,000.00
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Maine Produce Safety Improvement Project III. $91,806.32
- Maine Potato Board: Investigating Cultural Practices to Improve Integrated Pest Management Practices for Potato Viruses of Potato. (Year 2 of 3). $83,705.00
- Dr. Seanna Annis, University of Maine: Improving Leaf Spot Management to Enhance Wild Blueberry Health, Yield, and Climate Resilience. $93,469.00
- Dr. Lily Calderwood, University of Maine: Drought Stress Management for Wild Blueberry Growers. $63,027.00
- Dr. Jianjun Hao, University of Maine: Enhancing the Efficacy of Managing Soilborne Diseases in Potato Production through Integrated Soil Improvement. $76,280.00
- Dr. Gwendolyn Perry, University of Maine: Fresh Maine Wild Blueberries: Industry, Extension, Academic collaboration to protect and enhance safety and quality. $50,614.00
DACF will apply $52,438.48 of funding to ensure awardees abide by Federal and State requirements and regulations by performing pre-award and post-award activities to administer SCBGP funding. Find more information about current and past SCBG projects on the DACF webpage.
Nationwide, USDA is investing $72.9 million in non-competitive F.Y. 2022 SCBGP funding awarded to 55 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. The SCBGP funding supports farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. USDA’s support will strengthen U.S. specialty crop production and markets, ensuring an abundant, affordable supply of highly nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops, which are vital to the health and well-being of all Americans.
Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the federal SCBGP is intended to increase the competitiveness of non-commodity crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Through the block grant model, the federal government awards funding to individual state agricultural agencies to make local decisions about allocating the funds. Typically, the DACF releases an SCBG Request for Proposals in February, with applications due in March or April. Since 2002, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has awarded over $7.5 million to DACF to support the growing number of specialty crop producers selling into local and regional markets.
–Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry